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Ecuador

Mainland Ecuador Best Places: Colonial Cities, Volcanoes, Amazon Rainforest and Traditions

10 days | 9 nights
Private tour
From 1349USD per person
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Is there anything worth seeing in Ecuador outside the Galapagos Islands? Most definitely, there are countless great reasons why the small Andean country should be your next destination. Discover the charming colonial cities of Quito and Cuenca both listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Cross the equator line at 'The Middle of the World', half way beween the North and South poles. Bargain at one of South America's most colorful market in Otavalo. Walk on the edge of the caldera of the beautiful Cuicocha Lake. Experience the Amazon rainforest, the most biodiverse place on Earth. Get soaked under the Devil's Cauldron, an impressive waterfall in the region of Baños. Ride the unique Devil Nose train. Learn about Inca culture at Ingapirca archeological site. Relax in modern Guayaquil while exploring the colorful neighborhood of Las Peñas. Meet smiling local everywhere you go. Indugle in the world's best chocolate while learning everything about the cacao bean, its transformation and exportation. You do not need extra reasons to visit Ecuador, you just need to choose when to go. 

Destinations

Ecuador

Trip at a glance

Visits

Quito, Middle of The World, Otavalo Market, Cuicocha Crater Lake, Quitsato Sundial, Hummingbird Farm, Baños, Amazon Rainforest Excursion, Devil's Nose Train, Ingapirca Archeological Site, El Cajas National Park, Cuenca, Churute Mangrove Natural Reserve, Cacao Plantations, Guayaquil

Accomodation

7 nights in 3 or 4* hotels or haciendas, 2 nights in Itamandi Lodge in the Amazon Rainforest

Transportation

Nariz del Diablo Round-Trip

Shared boat for all transfers and excursions in the Amazon Rainforest on day 4, 5, 6

Private car and driver during the whole trip

Dates and Prices

Arrival date

Trip details

Itinerary

Day 1 ARRIVAL IN QUITO

Afternoon

Arrival at Mariscal Sucre, Quito international airport. 

Meet and greet with your English-speaking private guide. 

Transfer to the city centre and check in at your hotel (50 min). 

Evening

Free evening. 

Overnight at your hotel in Quito. 

Day 2 HALF-DAY CITY TOUR OF QUITO, MIDDLE OF THE WORLD

Morning

Discover with your guide the least-altered and best-preserved Latin American capital. 

Take a walk to visit the colonial churches and monasteries of this urban jewel, the first city in history to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Starting at the Independence Square, flanked by the Presidential Palace your visit will include the Metropolitan Cathedral of Quito, the Archbishop's Palace and the City Hall. 

Ramble through the city's old streets on your way to El Sagrario church and its exquisitely carved stone façade and step inside the awe-inspiring church of the Society of Jesus. 

Walk on to the Convent and Church of San Francisco, one of the greatest religious buildings on the South American continent. 

Drive up to the top of the Panecillo hill for breathtaking panoramic views of Quito. 

Afternoon

In the afternoon, drive out of the city to the Equatorial Valley (50 min), north of the capital, where you will visit the 'Middle of the World' monument. 

A monument and a museum exhibiting an ethnographic collection indicate the Equator line. 

Drive further north, towards the Lakes region surrounding Otavalo (1 hour 45 min). 

Evening

Free evening. 

Overnight at your hotel in Otavalo. 

MEALS
  • Breakfast at the hotel

Day 3 OTAVALO MARKET, PEGUCHE, CUICOCHA CRATER LAKE, COTACACHI

Morning

Spend your morning at the Otavalo market, one of the largest and most colorful in South America that comes alive every day of the week.

There you can find all types of handicrafts: woven rugs, alpaca sweaters, shirts, wall hangings, bags, paintings, clay figurines, silver jewelry and many other local souvenirs. 

On Saturdays only, locals come to trade livestock and other agricultural goods. The market is also very busy on Sundays and Wednesdays. Many stall owners belong to the Otavalo community and can be recognized by their traditional clothes. The many sights of women dressed in long skirts and embroidered blouses while men proudly wear hats to cover their long hair make this market a great opportunity for beautiful pictures.

Transfer to the town of Peguche (10 min), home to a stunning sacred waterfall. The village inhabitants have worked for centuries on traditional back strap weaving techniques, the manufacturing of musical instrument and wool felt hats. 

Afternoon

After lunch, head to the mysterious Cuicocha Lake (40 min) whose beautifully-still waters stretch over the caldera of an ancient volcano that collapsed over itself millions of years ago. 

On the way back to Otavalo (20 min), enjoy a short stopover in Cotacachi, a little town whose activity is dedicated to making fine leather products: crafted leather belts, purses, bags, jackets, backpacks and more. 

Evening

Free evening. 

Overnight in a hacienda in Otavalo. 

MEALS
  • Breakfast at the hotel

Day 4 QUITSATO SUNDIAL, HUMMINGBIRD FARM

To make your stay easier, we recommended to only take a small back pack with your travel essentials for your 2-day stay in the Amazon Jungle. Your larger items of luggage will be locked and stored safely on the bus, under the supervision of the driver.

Morning

On your way to the Amazon, heading south east, you will stop to visit the site of Quitsato Sundial (45 min). 

The Quitsato Sundial is a monument located at La Mitad Del Mundo (The Middle of the World). It is also an independent, not-for-profit project whose main goal is to share crucial aspects of the astronomical knowledge of the Pre-Hispanic cultures of the region. This monument is the first and the only one located precisely at latitude 0'º00'´0” on the Equatorial line. 

After going through the 12000-foot high pass (3660 m) the road dives down to the Amazon plains. The impressive changes in scenery can be noticed all along this journey from the road's highest point to the lowlands of the Amazon (4 hours 30 min). 

Stop on the way to visit a hummingbird farm that boasts many of the 125 different hummingbird species that can be found in the country making Ecuador a world record's holder of the highest number of hummingbirds species. 

Afternoon

Your drive will end at port Misahualli, the gateway to the Amazonian rainforest. 

Board a canoe that will take you to your lodge. 

Venture into the surrounding jungle or visit the little village nearby (according to time). 

Evening

Free evening in the rainforest. 

Overnight at your lodge. 

MEALS
  • Breakfast at the hotel
  • Dinner at the lodge

Day 5 FULL DAY EXCURSION IN THE AMAZON RAINFOREST

Morning

Optional walk at sunrise for the rare opportunity to see parrots licking minerals from natural clay walls to help their digestion (subject to weather conditions). 

During your forest walks your local guide will open a window onto the exciting world of Amazonian plants and the precious ecosystem. 

Canoe down the Napo River where you can go swimming. Depending on the interests of the group, your guide will also have other option activities. 

Afternoon

In the afternoon, meet with local Kichwa communities and learn about their traditions and day-to-day life. (tips are welcomed). 

Evening

Free evening in the rainforest. 

Overnight at your lodge. 

MEALS
  • Breakfast at the lodge
  • Lunch at the lodge
  • Dinner at the lodge

Day 6 AMAZON RAINFOREST, PAILON DEL DIABLO, ROUTE OF THE WATERFALLS, BAÑOS

Morning

After a 30-minute canoe ride back to the road, head over to Puyo by car. 

Journey to the Andean region through the 'Route of the Waterfalls', on your way to the province of Baños. 

Stop en route at el Pailón del Diablo, the 'Devil's Cauldron', a spectacular waterfall with an impressive 260-foot drop (80 m) splitting over rocks. 

Weather permitting, you might be able to see the 'Manto de la Novia', a ravishing twin waterfall. 

Afternoon

In the afternoon you will get to the town of Baños whose name reflects the local thermal springs. 

Take time to visit Baños and enjoy its splendid views of Tungurahua, the active volcano nearby. The town is popular with visitors who come for its famous hot springs, its lush scenery and for being the gateway to the jungle. 

As you head towards Riobamba through the 'Avenue of the Volcanoes', you will drive past Ecuador's highest peak, the Chimborazo volcano. Sitting proudly at 20,549 ft (6263 m) and long thought to be the highest mountain in the world, this strato-volcano is currently inactive. 

Evening

Free evening. 

Overnight at your hotel in Riobamba. 

MEALS
  • Breakfast at the lodge

Day 7 DEVIL'S NOSE TRAIN, INGAPIRCA ARCHEOLOGICAL SITE

Morning

On your way south, stop at the Balbanera church, the first Catholic building in the history of the country. 

After driving 1 hour and 30 minutes through beautiful scenery, you will get to the village of Alausí where you will hop on the train to Sibambe. The famous 'Devil's Nose' train route will take you through breathtaking scenery (2 hours). 

Afternoon

After lunch head south to the ruins of Ingapirca driving through more wonderful landscapes (2 hours). 

Visit the archeological site of Ingapirca, Ecuador's most important Inca site (1 hour 30 min). 

This place stands as a testimony of Incan domination in the country and shows the extent of the empire. 

Revel in the site's sober architecture with its straight lines and trapezoidal doors. Built around 1500, it was once an important religious and ceremonial site dedicated to the main deity of the Incas: the sun. 

Visit the Temple of the Sun, an oval-shaped ceremonial building constructed around a large rock with mind-boggling stonework and trapezoidal doorway typical of Inca construction techniques. 

This Temple was also used for astronomical observations and helped in determining with accuracy the dates of equinoxes and solstices. 

Head further south to the charming colonial city of Cuenca (1 hour 30 min). 

Evening

Free evening in Cuenca. 

Overnight at your hotel in Cuenca. 

MEALS
  • Breakfast at the hotel

Day 8 HALF-DAY CITY TOUR OF CUENCA, FREE AFTERNOON

Morning

Discover Cuenca, a jewel of Spanish colonial architecture, built on the ruins of Tomebamba, an ancient Inca city. 

Walk through its narrow streets lined with magnificent houses ornated with colonial balconies. 

Visit the flower market, the Calderon plaza, the new and the old cathedral, the San Francisco Plaza and its handicraft market. 

Drive up to Turi hill to enjoy a splendid panoramic view of Cuenca, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

At a straw-hat factory you will learn more about the famous 'Panama hat' and where it really comes from. 

Afternoon

Visit Juan Cordero Iñiguez's private museum with its great display of ceramics, jewels and everyday objects of pre-Columbian civilizations. This historian and professor dedicated his whole life to collecting Pre-Columbian artefacts. 

Afternoon at leisure to discover the city at your own pace or make your way to the thermal baths located 30 minutes from town.

Evening

Free evening. 

Overnight at your hotel in Cuenca. 

MEALS
  • Breakfast at the hotel

Day 9 ROAD TO GUAYAQUIL: EL CAJAS NATIONAL PARK, CHURUTE MANGROVE NATURAL RESERVE, CACAO PLANTATIONS

Morning

Departure to Guayaquil (3 hour 30 min). 

Drive through El Cajas National Park and Lake La Toreadora. 

Stop in Churute where you will cross the mangrove on a small boat. 

Churute Reserve is home to many species of mammals, reptiles and birds. 86,590 acres (35,042 hectares) of abundant aquatic vegetation, swamps and bushes create a unique habitat where mangroves thrive diving their roots underwater along other salt-tolerant bushes. 

Afternoon

Walk through cacao plants where you will learn everything about coffee from harvest to transformation and how it gets exported all the way to your cup. 

After a short demonstration on how unsweetened chocolate is made you will be invited to taste some of the freshly-made product. In the afternoon, you will get to Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city and the country's busiest port. 

Evening

Free evening. 

Overnight at your hotel in Guayaquil. 

MEALS
  • Breakfast at the hotel

Day 10 GUAYAQUIL CITY TOUR, DEPARTURE

Morning

In the morning, enjoy a private city tour. 

Stroll along the Malecon 2000 (the city's strand) and the Seminario Park with its numerous resident iguanas. 

Discover Guayaquil's Cathedral, the City Hall and La Rotonda monument. 

Walk up the tiny streets of Las Peñas, a colorful and traditional neighborhood. 

At the indicated time, transfer to Guayaquil airport (15 min). 

Check-in and assistance. 

MEALS
  • Breakfast at the hotel

Video

Services

What's included

Accommodation

Nights
7 nights in 3 or 4* hotels or haciendas, 2 nights in Itamandi Lodge in the Amazon Rainforest

Meals

Bed & Breakfast plan
9 breakfasts + 1 lunch + 2 dinners
Full board plan
9 breakfasts + 9 lunches + 9 dinners

Transportation

Train
Nariz del Diablo Round-Trip
Boat
Shared boat for all transfers and excursions in the Amazon Rainforest on day 4, 5, 6
Car
Private car and driver during the whole trip

Orientation

Guide
Private English-speaking guide and driver except in the Amazon Rainforest (shared guide)

Entrance Fees

All entrance fees to mentioned sites

What's not included

  • International Flights
  • Travel Insurance
  • Extra Meals
  • Drinks
  • Tips

Important notes

It is imperative to get your yellow fever vaccine at least ten days prior to departure.

Amazon rainforest packing list: binoculars, waterproof hiking shoes, hat, quick-dry clothing, long-sleeves shirt and pants, strong insect repellent, strong sunblock, bathing-suit, case or protection for your camera and phone, personal medication. 

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